Interstate 49 update slated for Fort Smith Board of Directors

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 46 views 

The Fort Smith Board of Directors will receive an update Tuesday on lobbying efforts by Watts Partners, a Washington D.C.-based lobbying group of which former Oklahoma Congressman J.C. Watts is a partner.

Watts Partners was hired a year ago to help the city with lobbying efforts in Washington. Funding for Interstate 49 was the board’s top lobbying priority for Watts.

Doug Thomas, a partner with Watts, will attend the board’s Tuesday (Dec. 9) study session and has told The City Wire he will talk about efforts to best ensure I-49 is not overlooked in 2009 Congressional funding action. The board’s study session begins at Noon, in the Community Room at the Fort Smith Public Library.

Thomas said I-49 funding is a possibility, but that the Fort Smith region will need to be prepared to make a case for why the project deserves significant funding. (Link here for a more complete story from The City Wire about Thomas’ comments about the possibility of I-49 funding.)

The City Wire obtained late Friday a copy of the report Thomas sent to the board of directors. Highlights of the report include:

• Infrastructure funding: “Next year Congress will consider major infrastructure authorization legislation, including the federal highway bill, WRDA, and airport improvement program. Watts Partners (WP) made sure that the delegation is aware of Fort Smith’s priorities in these areas, including Highway 45, Interstate 49, the I-540 interchange, Jenny Lind Road, and the May Branch Flood Control project.”
• Marshals Museum: “Funding for the museum continues to be a stated priority for Congressman Boozman. He and his staff encountered some resistance from certain sectors. There was concern that earmarked funding could compete with programmatic funding. Also, some appropriators wondered, given the current economy and austere fiscal climate, how high museum funding ranked on the list of priorities. While continuing to push for earmarked funding in the more obvious accounts, WP is exploring other less apparent places where federal museum, library, and national historic site funding could be had. WP is  seeking to obtain existing ‘leftover’ funding directly from these accounts or offer them to the congressional ‘champions’ as sources to direct earmarked funding in the next appropriations cycle.”